A let­ter to... Others trapped

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Per­haps you see your­self in my story...

Dear reader,

It’s easy to say when you’re on the out­side, look­ing in...

‘Why don’t you just leave him?’

But I know why you don’t. Can’t.

You have no money, no one to turn to, nowhere to go.

I know how trapped you feel.

You see, it took me more than 10 years to es­cape my abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.

I was 14 when one of the dads I babysat for took a shine to me.

I was flat­tered.

By the time I was 16, we’d started a re­la­tion­ship and he’d left his wife and kids.

‘I gave up my fam­ily for you,’ he’d say.

Made me feel like the most im­por­tant per­son in the world.

That’s what they do, groomers, abusers...

But I was head over heels. No mat­ter what any­one said,

I couldn’t see why the 20-odd year age gap was a prob­lem.

We got our own place, I got a job.

But he still ex­pected me to do all the chores, and noth­ing I did was ever good enough.

He made me feel self-con­scious and down, yet still des­per­ate to please him.

So, when he signed us up to a swingers web­site, I went along with it.

Soon, he was ar­rang­ing for me to have sex with strangers. I hated it, but was too scared to say.

I had no con­trol of my life. By my mid-20s, we had two kids – and while I was des­per­ate to get away, he’d plunged me into fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty.

Ev­ery penny I earned went on bills. If I wanted money for food, or clothes for the kids, I had to ask.

He took out loans, maxed­out credit cards that I had to pay off.

I was his emo­tional and fi­nan­cial pris­oner.

One day, I saw a video of my­self at 14 and re­alised how young I’d been when he’d first laid eyes on me. In­no­cent, vul­ner­a­ble. Still, it wasn’t un­til he raped me in front of our child that I knew I had to es­cape.

So I se­cretly scrimped and saved spare change from the money he gave me for gro­ceries, es­sen­tials.

Gave £20 here, £10 there to a trusted friend to squir­rel away.

That cash be­came my lifeline.

Even­tu­ally, I had enough for a de­posit on a house, rent.

Then, while he was at work, I grabbed the kids and moved out.

For a while, I let him see the kids. Didn’t want them to be with­out a dad. But when he started try­ing to con­trol me again, I packed up and moved once more.

I sought ad­vice from Women’s Aid, and they sup­ported me, helped me find a coun­sel­lor. Made me re­alise I wasn’t crazy, or alone.

I com­pleted the Free­dom Pro­gramme, an on­line course about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It taught me so much.

Per­haps you’re read­ing this and can see your­self in my story.

Yours won’t be ex­actly the same.

Abusers are clever at dis­guis­ing their method of con­trol – be it fi­nan­cial, emo­tional or phys­i­cal – un­til it’s too late.

But I need you to know, you can get out.

Plan, get your fi­nances in or­der, reach out for help – be­cause it is there.

Now, I’m fi­nally free, in con­trol of my own life. And you can be, too. Just be­lieve in your­self, pre­pare.

And you will find the strength to leave. Love, Sam x

I was an emo­tional and fi­nan­cial pris­oner

Sav­ing brought me free­dom

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